By Jonathan Schanzer, Commentary Magazine—
The Biden administration says it intends to engage less in the Middle East. Several senior officials and surrogates repeated this point during the new presidency’s first 100 days. Yet the administration went out of its way in its first few weeks to make three consequential moves in the Middle East that may backfire on America for years to come.
On February 4, the White House announced that the Pentagon would cease its support for Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against the Iran-backed Houthi militia that has terrorized Yemenis and Saudis for the better part of a decade. Two weeks later, on February 16, the State Department rescinded the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) designation of the Houthis (also known as Ansar Allah). Ten days after that, the Biden administration instructed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to release a report that confirmed the Saudi government’s responsibility for the brutal 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
Democrats have criticized the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen for years, pointing to air strikes that have killed large numbers of civilians, including children. They steadfastly opposed, ostensibly on humanitarian grounds, the Trump administration’s January 11 FTO designation of the Houthis only days before Biden was set to take office. And since Khashoggi’s killing, they have sought to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the horrific assassination and mutilation of a U.S. resident because it was approved by the Saudi government at the highest levels.
Nonetheless, these three moves were surprising because of their close proximity in time and just how quickly they happened. Taken together with announcements that the U.S. is removing military assets from the Kingdom and re-entering diplomacy with Saudi Arabia’s arch-rival Iran, Riyadh today must feel a frigid wind blowing from Washington. Continue Reading….